What Licenses & Permits Do You Need for a New Restaurant?

December 19, 2019

Opening a new restaurant is no small feat. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the perfect concept and created a delectable menu. However, before you even open your doors, there is the painstaking process of procuring all your licenses and permits. Permit and licensing requirements and fees vary by city, county, and state, but there are some things every new restaurant needs to operate. 

5 Permits & Licensing Requirements for Restaurants

Not sure where to begin? Make the process easier on yourself by having a plan in place. Start by researching basic licenses and permits in order to determine which ones you need to prepare for your culinary endeavor. 

1. Business License

Before you have your restaurant business plan fully solidified, you’ll want to obtain a business license. Required for all new businesses, this license grants you permission to legally operate your restaurant. Depending on your location, the process for acquiring your business license differs. If all of this sounds vague, it’s because it is. 

Business license requirements are contingent on your location and city/state policies, so there isn’t a universal guideline. Fortunately, you can visit the U.S. Small Business Administration website for guidance. They provide valuable information on how to secure a business license in your geographical jurisdiction. There are other resources that can help you take the guesswork out of the process.

2. Food Service Licenses

Much like your business license, your food service license is crucial to starting your new restaurant. Procuring this license also depends on your state and city regulations, and the type of eatery you are opening. Take-out only establishments and food carts might need a food vendor’s license. Dine-in restaurants might be licensed based on the number of seats they have.

Food service licenses are issued through your local state health department. Start the process by investigating application requirements via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From there you can easily apply online. All you need is the location and name of your restaurant. This license does require an in-person visit from the health department to evaluate your compliance with restaurant food safety rules. Be aware that the health department will stop by at random to ensure you are following health regulations.

3. Food Handler Permits

Speaking of food safety, you’ll want to make sure all your employees acquire their food handler permits. Having this permit demonstrates that your food service professionals have learned the proper procedures for food safety. How to obtain this permit varies by state, but the gist is universal. You’ll want to research your state requirements and have employees complete food handler training. These permits will have to be renewed periodically, so keep track of expiration dates and have your staff retake the course as needed. 

4. Employer Identification Number

Think of an employer identification number (EIN) as a social security number for your new restaurant. This important license allows the IRS to track your restaurant’s tax reporting.  You’ll also need this for payroll and donation purposes. Obtaining your EIN is easy. You can apply by fax, phone, or regular mail, although online applications are the easiest. Simply visit IRS.gov, click on their EIN link, fill out the form, and submit. 

5. Liquor License

If your new restaurant plans on serving any adult beverages, you will have to get a liquor license. The logistics involved in obtaining this license are all over the map and depend not only on your location, but the type of alcohol you are serving. A beer and wine only establishment would apply for a different liquor license than one with a full bar. 

The type of bar you have might also dictate what type of menu you create, or what your operating hours might be. Some states have liquor laws that may seem odd. Your best bet to figuring out your state’s unique law is to start with your ABCs, or Alcohol Beverage Control Board. This is the organization you will work with to understand the state laws, discern the cost of your license, and determine the exact process to get your official license. Once you have all the info, you can then apply for the license. The process is a lengthy one, so get your applications in as early as possible. 

We’ve covered a few of the necessary licenses and permits required to open your restaurant, but you’ll likely need other ones as well. Once you have all the paperwork out of the way, you can feel confident in embarking on your culinary adventure.

Our Wholesale Restaurant Supply Company is Your Culinary Partner

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We invite you to search our full line of high-quality products at competitive prices.


Restaurant Permit Checklist

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